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James W. Huston

Archive for January, 2012

Book Review: Hemingway’s Boat

Written by: James W. Huston Published: January 24, 2012

  

"Hemingway's Boat" by Paul Hendrickson

I have read most of Hemingway’s fiction.  Not all of it, but most of it.  I love his writing.  At its best it may be the best writing in America in the 20th Century.  But even though I have read most of his writing I didn’t know that much about him as a person.  I knew the public persona, the tough guy big-game-hunting Cuba and Key West living drinking ambulance driving fisherman.  But I had never read a biography of him.  Still haven’t.  I did though just finish Hemingway’s Boat, Everything He Loved And Lost, 1934-1961, by Paul Hendrickson.  I now have that difficult tension with Hemingway that I have encountered with some other great writers or musicians; great works do not necessarily come from great people.

Hendrickson’s book does not claim to be a biography. It is a recounting of certain stories, attitudes, letters, and damage, related—some directly, some very very indirectly—to the 1934 custom boat Hemingway bought and took to Florida and then Cuba (where it still sits on blocks).  It tells of the friends and guests Hemingway took to sea with him, almost always to fish for marlin.  It tells of how he mistreated almost everyone in his world, including his “friends” from his impoverished days in Paris struggling to establish himself as a writer, to his wives, sons, and editors.  He was the trail blazer for so many Hollywood personalities of today, who have no lines and no rules, and literally do whatever they like, regardless of the impact it has on others.  The poster boy of narcissism.

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Book Review: Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong

Written by: James W. Huston Published: January 5, 2012

Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong

This is an amazing book written by a UVA law professor who reviewed the first 250 cases in which people were exonerated after DNA testing confirmed they were not guilty. It is extremely well written, easy to read, organized, and compelling. Garrett points out problems with our criminal justice system that are systemic, and not limited to a small number of cases where convictions have been overturned. Like a police officer knowing who the suspect is in a lineup. Like not recording interrogations and confessions. Like allowing “expert” testimony by forensic experts in areas with virtually no scientific support (like identifying hair and bite marks). Regardless of your political persuasion or which side you’re on if you do criminal law, this book is a must read. It is sobering and makes you want to make things better. Highly recommended.

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The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community

I first became acquainted with C.S. Lewis in college.  I was drawn to his lucidity and insight.  After reading a few of his books, I couldn’t get enough.  In my late college years and early twenties I set out to read everything he wrote.  I didn’t read his academic works on medieval literature, but did get through pretty much everything else, fiction and non-fiction alike.  Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated by Lewis and his writing.  I’ve even been to Oxford and to the Eagle and Child, the pub where C.S. Lewis would meet on Tuesdays with his friends and co-writers who came to be known as the Inklings.  I’ve often wondered what effect the other Inklings had on Lewis’s writing and thinking. 

 That question has now been answered.  In her book, The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community, Diane Glyer explores all their interactions, and all the implications.  The book was recommended to me by a student of Dr. Glyer’s at Azusa Pacific University.  I was enthusiastic, but began the book with some trepidation when I realized it was “academic” and had numerous footnotes.  The odds of a college professor writing a book with footnotes intended for the academic community that is insightful and is still readable and enjoyable was low.  But she has done it. 

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